X-Men: Apocalypse Casts Its Psylocke — But Which Version of Psylocke Is She?

By  · Published on April 14th, 2015

"Uncanny Psylocke" by Source (WP:NFCC#4). Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Uncanny_Psylocke.png#/media/File:Uncanny_Psylocke.png

“Uncanny Psylocke” by Source (WP:NFCC#4). Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Uncanny_Psylocke.png#/media/File:Uncanny_Psylocke.png

Bryan Singer has revealed another casting update for X-Men: Apocalypse via Instagram, and it’s the most interesting announcement yet. Geek goddess Olivia Munn will play the role of Betsy Braddock, and as Singer’s hashtag reminds us all, that name belongs to the X-Man called Psylocke. She has a complicated history in the comics. Born in England as the twin sister of Brian Braddock, aka Captain Britain, she developed telepathic powers, later joined Professor X’s mutant superhero team and eventually was turned into a Japanese woman. Well, she switched minds with one. Basically, the story of Psylocke would, on its own, make for the coolest body-swap movie of all time (sorry, Face/Off).

Excited to welcome @oliviamunn as Betsy Braddock! #Psylocke #XmenApocalypse #XMEN

A photo posted by Bryan Singer (@bryanjaysinger) on Apr 13, 2015 at 1:04pm PDT

So, the question is which of the two versions of Psylocke is Munn portraying. Is she the born-blonde Brit who is best known for having purple hair and flowing pink costume, or is she the one with the Asian woman’s body and skimpy blue bodysuit? On the one hand, she doesn’t fit either, and on the other hand she could fit both. Munn is half-Chinese and grew up mostly in Tokyo, which isn’t the same as being fully Japanese but it’s enough to not accuse the production of fully white-washing the character if they’re going with that incarnation. She could also be original Betsy with an accent and, given that Apocalypse takes place in the ’80s and will be the character’s true introduction in the series (never mind Mei Melancon in X-Men: The Last Stand), that seems the more logical way to go.

For a moment, I thought it would be interesting if she was cast for both, playing up one half of her ethnicity for the white Betsy and then at some point, maybe in the next movie, depicting the body-swap and allowing Munn to keep the part. Not only does that probably sound ridiculous in a racial sense, it also wouldn’t be very logical. The point with Psylocke’s transition is that she becomes a very, very different-looking person. Having the same actress as both versions would be like having Judge Reinhold physically play both parts, father and son, in Vice Versa. I wonder if Singer thinks the fact that Munn could be either Psylocke is a fun mystery for the fans, but I don’t know there’d be any point in leaving us to wonder.

I like the suggestion I’ve seen made about the X-Men movies reinventing the character so she’s just always been a half-Asian woman and never bother with the confusing transformation. But I think Munn has been cast as the original Psylocke. We’ll see if I’m right or wrong when the movie hits theaters on May 27, 2016. Or earlier, probably.

In the meantime, here’s a photo of Psylocke and Gambit, sort of:

Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

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Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.